M L Williams – Soak

Williams LE P&W July 2023

Download PDF Here
Live Encounters Poetry & Writing July 2023

Soak, poems by M. L. Williams.


If you ask me the reason for this certainty, I have none.
— Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, 607
The dollar store candle girl
is supposed to be Mary
and the bathwater, heavy
with heat and salts,
steams the room.
She seems to vanish—
all but the yellow flicker
of her ghost heart—
in the mist the mirror
wears like a veil.


Watching her paint each nail
carefully, her pale, aging
hands brightened by polish
perfectly applied, the tight,
black brush fanning out
in a wet red gush
on nail after filed nail,
I begged, “Do mine, Nana.”
I was four, and she complied.

She had eight boys out
of ten, knew their
spirit and their bland
ferocities, so when Joe
arrived I was transformed
from boy with blood-red claws
to girl—clearly, in his eyes
a terrible fate—and he
let me know it in a hail
of uncly taunts,
but she shushed him,
told me they were fine,
told me to wear my scarlet
Revlon nails with pride.

Intentional Fallacy

Explanations come to an end somewhere.
–Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, 1
Mockingbirds plunge headlong
into jasmine, thread longleaf
pine needles into a nest
too close to the chain-link
gate I must pass through
to clean the greening
pool. I worry that I’ll worry
them once their eggs are lain,
that each shriek warning me,
each nosedive at my forehead,
will silence squawking beaks
that open and open for everything.
I mean no harm, I will think
hard at these songbirds
for whom all meaning
they can’t mock is harm.

© M L Williams

M. L. Williams is the author of Game (What Books Press 2021) the chapbook Other Medicines and co-editor of How Much Earth: The Fresno Poets, and he served as editor or co-editor of Quarterly West for five years. His work appears in many journals and anthologies, including Plume, Hubbub, Salt, Western Humanities Review, Miramar, The Journal of Florida Studies, The Cortland Review, Live Encounters Poetry, and Stone, River, Sky, and has been nominated for multiple Pushcart Prizes. He co-emcees the Poetry Stage at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, and he teaches creative writing and contemporary literature at Valdosta State University.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.